Provo • Last September’s Utah-BYU women’s soccer game became a wild adventure in the second half, with BYU goalkeeper Sabrina Davis having left the field after colliding with a Ute player in mid-air and the teams then trading a flurry of goals.
Davis made sure nothing crazy like that happened Friday night, once the No. 10 Cougars took an early lead in a 2-0 victory at South Field.
Davis' consecutive saves of shots from Utah's Ireland Dunn and Brooklyn James in a close-range sequence midway through the first half kept the Utes off the scoreboard. And when Cameron Tucker's goal in the 64th minute followed Elise Flake's first-half score, BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood was assured of a memorable Bobblehead Night that celebrated her 25th season.
“It's amazing that I've been here so long,” Rockwood said. “You can only win games with fantastic players and a fantastic staff.”
Davis and the Cougars defenders in front of her lived up to that description, while Utah's counter-attacking style challenged them. BYU plays aggressively, and the Utes didn't merely sit back.
“They’re explosive and they also take a lot of risks,” said Ute coach Rich Manning. “We just kind of said, you know what? We’re going to come back at you. You’ve got to punch 'em back. … I liked that we created good chances.”
The Cougars (4-0) just did a better job of maximizing those opportunities than Utah (2-3). Flake took a pass from SaraJayne Affleck on the left side, weaved around a defender and scored in the 20th minute.
BYU added another goal in the 64th minute as Tucker scored via a corner kick with an assist from Lizzy Braby. Ute goalkeeper Carly Nelson had made one of her seven saves on a hard shot from Braby about four minutes earlier, before being beaten by Tucker as BYU extended its lead.
The corner-kick sequence was disappointing to Manning, coming in a second half when Utah applied almost as much pressure to BYU’s defense. Yet the chance the Utes really will lament came in the first half when Davis dived to deflect Dunn’s shot, only to have the rebound go to the worst possible spot — right in front of the net.
Dunn was able to “do my best to get back up,” she said, acknowledging the second-shot opportunity for Utah is “always dangerous for a keeper.”
She knocked away James' attempt, pretty much ensuring the Cougars would get through their fourth game of the season having allowed only one goal, via a penalty kick in a win at Mississippi State.
And the BYU seniors could say they've never lost to Utah, being part of a four-game winning streak in the rivalry (the teams tied in 2017) that's annually staged on the first Friday of September.
Last season, Utah rallied with two goals to tie the game after Davis was injured, but the Cougars got the go-ahead score in the last five minutes in a 3-2 win in Salt Lake City. Davis was happy to play the full 90 minutes Friday and even more thrilled with her defense's shutout.
“Oh, absolutely,” she said. “I am super proud and excited about this team and what the future holds for all of us.”
The Cougars will host No. 13 Texas A&M on Thursday. Utah must regroup quickly, visiting Boise State on Sunday.